GP charges for patients could become necessary, finance experts warn

The government may have to consider charging patients to see a GP in order to plug the £30bn funding gap faced by the NHS in England, public finance experts have said.

(Photo: Jason Heath Lancy)
(Photo: Jason Heath Lancy)

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) warned that the NHS was not able to 'react fast enough' to achieve the unprecedented £22bn of savings the service and ministers have committed to by 2020.

In a briefing document on The Health of Health Finances the experts said the plans were too optimistic and failed to take account of the government’s election commitments to seven-day GP services, same-day appointments for over-75s, and training 5,000 more GPs by 2020. 

The £8bn of additional funding by 2020 promised by the government will not be enough, the document said, even if £22bn of savings were delivered. 

Ministers face the choice of either adding further to the NHS budget, charging users more, or reducing services, it said.

The NHS could, CIPFA suggested, consider a flat rate contributory fee to see a doctor, paying a proportion of treatment costs, or an insurance approach.

Ministers have said they are committed to keeping the NHS free at the point of use.

Proposals to introduce charges for GP appointments were overwhelmingly rejected at the annual LMCs conference in 2014 by GP leaders who said it would be 'mistaken and dangerous' step that would destroy patient trust in their doctor. 

Chief Executive of CIPFA Rob Whiteman said: ‘Without radical transformation, we will struggle to offer a high quality public health service for future generations. The NHS is presently beset by a Five Year Forward View and resource assumptions that will not add up.'

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